The model

The diagram below represents the above methods and their relations:

Approach 

Method 

Objectivity 

Expansion 

 Common sense

Phenomenology 

Personal depth 

Heuristic enquiry 

 Scientific

Ind./deduction 

Distancing 

Instrum./experim. 

 Spiritual

Transpersonal 

Trans. personal 

Awareness shift

 Philosophical

Reasoning 

Internal criteria 

Discourse 

 

  • The first column refers to the approach with which these methods are associated.
  • The names of the methods are given in the second column.
  • In order to reach a certain level of a universal validity, each of these methods needs a degree of objectivity. The truth itself cannot be a guide in this case (if we knew the truth, the whole process would be unnecessary). Hence, the third column is best qualified as commitment to objectivity that can be facilitated by the above procedures. Of course, absolute objectivity cannot be achieved, so striving for objectivity is what matters.
  • Besides striving for objectivity (that leads to improving the existing knowledge) it is also important to expand, to face the unknown and try to incorporate it. The fourth column indicates the ways such expansion can be achieved. In the first case, heuristic or intrapersonal enquiry is suggested (already used in qualitative research, for example)[1]. It leads to developing non-algorithmic, tacit understanding and requires a willingness to get personally involved with the subject of enquiry. Transforming the perception of reality (object manipulation) through using instruments and conducting experiments is already well practised in science. Manipulating experience (subject manipulation) through shifts of awareness is a recognised path of enhancing transpersonal experiences. The interpersonal means (dialogue, discourse) has been used since Plato, but was significantly refined in the 20th century (through the work of Buber, Bohm, Bakhtin, Gadamer and others), and can too contribute to expansion.

The following allegorical example may help in recognising the unique qualities of each of these methods, and how they can be combined. Let us imagine that four individuals come across a river, and each of them has a preference for one of these methods. The first person may attempt to experience the river directly. S/he may taste the water or even swim in it (immerse shimself in it). Phenomenological reduction could assist in determining the extent to which such an experience can have a universal value. The second person, in contrast, may stand on the bank and use, for instance, geometry to measure the width of the river, or bring some instruments to determine its chemical composition. The third person may sit by the river and try to merge with it on a non-material level, seeking the meaning of the river beyond shis immediate experience. The fourth person, using reason, may try to conceptualise the river, probably by pacing up and down its banks and possibly by entering into dialogue with others (in an attempt to see how their experiences can make rational sense). Now, we could imagine that one person can do all of the above. This, however, is not necessary, as long as those four do their work with integrity and are open-minded and willing to put their findings together. On first sight, trying to synthesise a chemical analysis of water with a Siddhartha-like experience of the river, may seem odd, but it is not impossible. The rest of this book is an attempt to interpret reality by doing just that.

  • [1]. Heuristic enquiry asks: ‘What is my experience of this phenomenon and the essential experience of others who also experience this phenomenon intensely?' (Patton, 1990, p.71).